Thursday, June 28, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: We Will Never Pass This Way Again

Tryptavision 4, a light painting by Joe Mehl of Tryptavision
via Deviant Art

Time has been playing funny tricks on me lately. I used to think of my life as one-directional, but lately I've been noticing loops and spirals in my life's story. Places, interests, and people that I didn't expect to ever reconnect with suddenly reappear.

It feels like I'm already in the eternal return, learning to affirm past choices and reintegrate them into the ever-growing pattern of my life. (I tend to think about my life in terms of quilting, even though I've only ever made one quilt). It's a bit of a relief to have these unexpected continuities, honestly, because I'm so intent on making the most of each scrap of experience. The scraps may be bigger than I had first imagined!

The discovery of spiraling time doesn't make each moment any less special, though. It makes me want to appreciate these pleasures now, so that when I perhaps return to a similar moment somewhere down the line, I will have double the joy in greeting it again. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

7: Our Ending

Seven-pointed star from Wall Drawing #808, by Sol LeWitt

Let's continue with our number series based on The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider. 

I think I may end this little series here . . . Seven is often a symbol of completion, so it's been said, so at least this is a good place to end. I've found that as time goes on, I'm less sure about what can be truly said about a particular number as a symbol, and I'd rather not go on half-heartedly about things I don't believe in. Nevertheless, there are fascinating connections that we "moderns" miss between pattern, science, and religion, and I hope the series has provoked some interest in seeing those connections. Maybe the healing, geometric designs of Emma Kunz tap into those connections, but I don't really know what to say about this sort of thing right now. Maybe I'll have a dream someday that will help me understand.

Thank you for taking a somewhat random journey through numbers 1 through 7 with me. 


Just for fun: here's a lengthy post on how to draw a heptagon, in case you have a compass, a straightedge, and some extra time on your hands.

Drawing a seven-pointed star using a compass and straightedge is a great exercise in understanding the number seven: unlike other polygons, the heptagon is created outside of the vesca piscis—in this sense, it is "unborn." To create it, you have to draw two circles whose circumferences share each others' centers. Then draw a square in the upper portion of the visca piscis, using the two circles' radius as its bottom edge. Next, draw a circle whose diameter is equal to the square's sides. Find the first side of the heptagon by connecting the two points of the circle's circumference that intersect the tops of the two larger circles.

As Schneider notes, the heptagon is the only shape that originates outside of the vesca piscis: it emerges from the "crown" of the original circles, just as Athena emerged from Zeus's forehead.

Once you have the first side of heptagon, you walk the compass around the circle's perimeter, but this measurement is only an approximation. You'll have the walk the compass in the opposite direction and split the difference between the two points.  

From the heptagon, you'll get two stars (one connects every third point and one connects every other point), and when these stars are combined inside the heptagon, you'll get the "web of Athena."

You can also go here to watch a video for another way of drawing a heptagon and its stars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sun Salutation

Happy sunny day, friends! Yesterday I squinted out onto the field across the street and saw the sunshine's golden haze, and I had to listen to "Sunshine on My Shoulders" in it's honor. There was something so sweet about seeing the sun's light reflected onto the grass and yellow flowers. It must have been the sun's way of reminding me of its special day coming up. Today, I think I will do some sun salutations in honor of the sun's longest day of the year. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Love Will Be Preserved

Emblem 9 (of 12) from the
1752 Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon
by unknown alchemist L.C.S.,
reproduced by Adam McLean
via Unurthed

"Only what has turned to love in your life will be preserved."
    —Rule for a New Brother

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Living with Poems

Illuminated Manuscript, by Sarah Cain
via Bryan Miller Gallery

I've been thinking about what poems I might like to carry around in me, memorized, to take refuge in when necessary. Already, my list of poems far outstrips the time I'm willing to put in to such a project. After making this list of future poems I will have in my head some day, I thought of one that I've already been living with for a decade now. I still don't have it memorized, but I am always returning to it. I think I first read this poem because my dad pointed it out to me in some publication (maybe the daily newspaper?), so it's always felt a little bit like a gift--something that I should appreciate and take care not to lose. 

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird. 
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands and
Lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.


And since the whole thing's imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in Love's deep river,
'To labour and not to seek reward,' he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river's name.

    —"Saint Kevin and the Blackbird," by Seamus Heaney

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Primary Speech

Walking in Sunrise, by Kristina Swarner
via Chemers Gallery

The concept of prayer has always been confusing to me. What does it mean to use a human language to speak to the divine? What could we possibly say to a divine being that would be of any consequence? For me, these are questions that I don't want an easy answer to.

Primary Speech, by Ann and Barry Ulanov, offered some new ground to explore on the subject of prayer. What I loved about their theology of prayer was where they located its beginning: the human desire to speak honestly about one's self. To me, this fits with the somewhat anthropological, psychological religion I'm drawn to. Don't we all, at times, want to be gently but firmly aware of who we are? 

From this point of "confession" comes illumination and unification—the identification with creation and awareness our interconnectedness. One of my favorite themes.

Although I think the Ulanovs would disagree, their concept of prayer feels like something that could be possible for people with vastly different concepts of God or no-God. To me, their minimal definition of prayer involves the meeting of self with a revelatory Other. 

"All that we would hold most dear and protect most earnestly is transmuted into our own bits of gold and frankincense and myrrh to bring to the child in us and the child outside us."

"We die to our own small versions of reality; we give into God's care our mythical gods and the gods of our personal and collective myths. These are the gifts we bring to our epiphany."
    —quotations from "Transfiguration," Primary Speech, by Ann and Barry Ulanov

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spider Yoga

Spider Woman, by Man Ray

We moved into a new home about a month ago—a home that had sat empty for several years before we showed up. Spiders had decided to take up residence, and we still see a spider somewhere inside our home just about everyday.

When I see a spider, it isn't just a bug to me; I can't help think about the different roles that spiders have played in myths (grandmothers, seductive women, cursed humans, tricksters). I feel a little less powerful (and less mythological—there aren't any stories about me in mythology, are there?) when my path crosses these little guys. Sometimes they get smashed, I have to admit, but I try to let them be, when I can.

The other night a spider joined me for yoga. She had long thread-like legs, and she mostly walked upside-down on the window blinds. I found her to be a very good teacher. She was so graceful and so self-assured. 

So I tried to do spider yoga in her honor. This involved some balancing poses: sun salutations flowing into half-moon posewarrior three, and extended hand to big toe pose. With my arms and legs splayed out and floating in air, I tried to find the same quiet ease as the spider displayed. For me, this is when yoga is best—I'm not only deepening into my own breath and body, I'm also deepening into the mythological collective. 


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